Introduction: Water Table, for the Kids

Picture of Water Table, for the Kids

I decided to make a fun water table for my son’s first birthday. He loves water in the sink and the bathtub so instead of getting a boring old tiny pool, I went this route. I wanted fountains and sprayers and a self contained reservoir and pump so it wouldn’t need to be attached to the hose. I got all the goods at a local home-improvement store and got it together in about 2 hours.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

Materials needed:
a plastic storage bin with a cool lid (I got a couple of these in a two-pack)
a 330 gph statuary pump (in the garden pond section)
3/4” x 5’ polyethylene plastic water pipe (the price tag said “3/4” x5’ NSF PE 160PSI STICK (PEP)”)
3/4” insert plug (in the same section as the pipe above)
3/4” 90D elbow insert
3/4” tee insert
3/4” ID vinyl tube (I got a 10’ piece)

and a few simple tools:
a hand saw
a power drill
various drill bits, one a bit bigger than the outer diameter of the pipe and a few smaller ones
a utility knife (or something else to cut the vinyl tubing)

Step 2: Drill Some Drainage Holes

Picture of Drill Some Drainage Holes

Start by drilling drainage holes on the lid of the bin so that any water squirted out of the fountains will not pool on top but drain back into the reservoir. On this cool lid, I put about a 3/8” hole at every intersection of the molded texture, which happens to be the lowest point on the lid.

Step 3: Plumbing Structure

Picture of Plumbing Structure

Next cut some 2” lengths of black pipe with your hand saw (or a power miter box saw) and assemble the three tee inserts and four 90D elbow inserts into the main plumbing structure.

I found that it took a bit of force to get the pipe onto the inserts. What helped was soaking the black pipe pieces in really hot water for 30 seconds right before putting them on the inserts. It helps to have a plan of action and a big bowl of hot water.

Step 4: Drill Holes for Fountain Parts

Picture of Drill Holes for Fountain Parts

Lay the main plumbing structure on the lid to find the best location for the holes that will allow the vertical fountain pipes to come above the lid. Mark the spots with marker and drill them out with bit a little larger than the diameter of the black pipe.

Step 5: Fountain Parts

Picture of Fountain Parts

Take the remaining black pipe and cut it into six pieces, varying the length a bit. Four of those pieces get an insert plug and the remaining two get a 90D elbow insert, followed by two of the ones that got plugs. You should end up with the four vertical fountain pieces.

Step 6: Drill a Hole for the Power Cord

Picture of Drill a Hole for the Power Cord

Drill a hole in the side of the bin, below the rim, for the pump’s power cord to pass through. Then make a vertical cut through the rim to that hole with your hand saw.

Step 7: Get the Pump in the Bin

Picture of Get the Pump in the Bin

Pass the power cord through the hole in the bin by cramming it down the cut you made. Place the pump at the bottom of the bin. Attach the plumbing assembly to the top of the pump with a small piece of vinyl tubing.

Step 8: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

This is the tricky part: pass each of the vertical fountain pieces through the holes in the lid and attach them to the plumbing assembly while holding the lid on partially. Close the bin and adjust the positioning of everything so that the fountain parts are roughly vertical.

Step 9: Make Some Holes for the Water to Come Out

Picture of Make Some Holes for the Water to Come Out

Drill small holes in the plug inserts that point up. Small is key here. If you make the holes too big before you test the water pressure, you could end up with not enough water pressure. You can’t re-drill a smaller hole, only a bigger one. So start small.
Drill some holes along the underside of the horizontal fountain pipes. Take it easy with the size and number of them; you can always add more later.

Step 10: Fill It Up and Test It.

Picture of Fill It Up and Test It.

Fill the reservoir with enough water to cover the pump by a couple of inches. You can pour or hose water right onto the lid. Plug the pump in to test the water pressure coming out of the fountains. If it’s too much, unplug the pump and increase the size of a hole or two and test it again. Keep this up until you get the perfect pressure for fun.


USS Sandhu made it! (author)2014-07-07

What a super easy and fun project. Thanks much for posting this... my little guy loved it!

Yoruk (author)2017-07-16

Amazing idea ! Thanks for sharing !

sdebono (author)2015-01-19

awesome, but I wonder how safe it is if something goes worong with the pump. Would a Ground Fault Interrupter be enough to ensure safety ? Thanks

nivchek (author)sdebono2017-07-03

I would not use this without GFI, which should be sufficient protection.

AlexH7 (author)2017-07-03

Great project idea.

My one recommendation is for anything involving people and water, add a GFCI breaker. These are designed to detect a short to ground, including caused by exposure to water, and cut the breaker before anybody gets killed. Stand-alone ones that attach to the end of your extension cord are available for $10-$15 from the home depot and make for some cheap insurance.

crusher162 (author)2017-07-02

any body have any mothers say anything about the electric part of the thing?

pmorse1 (author)2017-07-02

I'd go one step further and get a cheap solar powered pump from Amazon..... saves water & electric and it can run most of the day at no further cost. The pump is well worth the small price if you have children who really like to play in water!

ablanchard5 made it! (author)2017-05-25

I made this (with a few tweaks) for my 2 year-old. I used threaded PVC pipe so it's easy to dismantle (I store all the pipe inside the box when not in use) and it's also easy to reconfigure the spouts up top if I want to mix it up.

AnnaW85 made it! (author)2016-11-01

We made this over the weekend. I just love it and know my son will have hours of play!

AlanaG3 made it! (author)2016-01-05


Thank you so much!! My husband made this in one morning, and our two year old is absolutely enthralled :) We used retic pipe and fittings and a few cable ties for stabilising the lot. It's just awesome!!

Pizzaface made it! (author)2015-10-07

Here's mine. I added male and female connectors. I can change out the sprinklers on top, and it's a little better for storing with the tops removed and stored inside the box.

Mollerina made it! (author)2015-08-02

We made this table this weekend! My son loved it! What a fun project!!! Thank you for sharing the tutorial! :)

Pizzaface (author)Mollerina2015-09-09

Did you use some kind of black tubing or did you paint/stain pvc? The fittings look like pvc. I love how it coordinates with the bin.

Jammokablammo (author)2015-09-02

How big are the boxes people are generally using for this?

Pizzaface (author)2015-08-31

I love this project. I've made one and feel the 300 GPH pump is unnecessarily... strong. What size pumps are everyone using? Please add that info when you post your own Water Table, and if you've already posted yours, please add that info. I'm wondering if I might go down to around 100 GPH.

earvedson made it! (author)2015-07-16

Great idea, thanks!
I built a slightly different model, using only soft tubes and a transparent box so you can see whats going on inside.

BrandonG12 (author)2015-06-20

I built this today... figured I'd earn my rights to Father's Day. I'm going to unveil it tomorrow in 1.0 stage for my 2 year old. A bit of a snag was that everything shot too hard/too far with the holes I drilled, so I kept going up one size (repeat about 4 times...) and then all the sudden one more hole increased and half of it didn't get enough pressure to fill the tallest tube.

Made some mods, bought a few new caps at Home Depot. Going to finish it up tomorrow morning.

I'm thinking of (but haven't yet figured out how) adding some kind of attached water wheel for the water to fall onto and spin.

Also some kind of shell/hood thing for one of the tubes that shoots water up to kind of fan it out in a curve.

great ideas. post a picture if you are willing.

and happy fathers day.

Thanks! :) Here is a picture of my 1.0 version. Going to modify it more, as I said.

I also noticed that everything liked to start leaning very easily (at least in my setup...) so when my son starts touching it too much it starts to lean the whole structure a ton. I think it has to do with the pump shifting so that the cut out lid holes force it to lean and teeter. I am working on a way to stabilize everything... I'll let you know what I find out, if I do. :)

theerikjohnson (author)2015-06-18

Thanks everyone. I love that after four years, people still comment on this. I never would have imagined.

spalterthump made it! (author)2015-06-15

Had a sick kid on a hot day. This project was amazing. We used 3/4" PVC and left all the top joins open. Bought a lot of different fittings and had a lot of fun rearranging things. Thanks for the great instructable!

christinaknoxville made it! (author)2015-06-05

Glued 1" PVC, added 1/4 turn valves, painted it and... Voila!

idryo made it! (author)2014-07-31

I made one for my 11 month old. He loves it!

phinch (author)2012-07-08

Thanks for the inspiration. I built a similar table for my almost two year old using yours as a guide.
I added a shallower tub to the top with a standpipe so that the she could splash in a few inches of water. The fountain pump feeds a slip fit pvc pipe fitting, so she (or I) can reconfigure the fountain.

today we added dish soap, that was fun.

phinch (author)phinch2014-07-22

I made a bigger, lower version..

theerikjohnson (author)phinch2012-07-09

Great. I like your modifications. Did the soap affect the pump's performance at all?

phinch (author)theerikjohnson2012-07-21

i didn't notice any difference. It's a good idea to fill the reservoir with as much water as it will hold, because the foam will eat up a lot of the water. my pump almost ran dry. I wasn't too worried, because I've accidentally ran my pump for days at a time dry when it used to be a garden pump.

Today, I added an umbrella for shade.

USS Sandhu (author)2014-05-19

I'd love to make this for my 1 year old son. Can anyone tell me what the minimum GPH should be on the pump? Would something like this suffice?:



phinch (author)USS Sandhu2014-07-22

I used a 260 GPH pump for mine. the one you linked should work fine.

TONY3696 (author)2014-06-18

Forgot to add the pictures...

TONY3696 (author)2014-06-18

I set mine up so they could wash their trucks, grab a drink, and fill up squirt guns. I also used Pex tubing, being an HVAC tech has its advantages!! I plan on changing it as they grow to accommodate new activities.

bradherman (author)2014-05-26

Just finished building ours. I used a heat gun (paint aisle) to heat up the black pipe. This worked so well, It made it like the attaching the joints like butter. All it takes is 15 seconds with the gun on high, you don't want to melt the pipe just make it very warm. I still need to add 2 end caps and extra play features but for now it's working great. I'm still going to add a laminar flow fountain to one of the up tubes. The build time was right around two hours, and this guide was fantastic.

FirstSpear (author)2014-05-20

Brilliant idea. Kids do get bored with paddling pools and the like, and just end up pouring buckets of water on the grass\dog\plants\sister\mum. I hope others mod this and extend the interest possibilities. Infinitely expandable.

Bleach. Kids swim in Chlorine all the time, and that's what most bleaches are. Water purification tablets, perhaps?

Electricity. RCD obviously.

Make_This (author)2014-05-19

What a neat idea. I need to find someone w a toddler ...thanks for the spark

theerikjohnson (author)2014-05-19

Thank you all for your comments and interest.

hammer9876 (author)2014-05-18

This looks like great, wet fun! Just for another idea, I saw a water feature in a museum where you could divert water flowing slightly downhill. I could dam it all up, make it go fast down a sluice, or make it go snaking down the table. All this with little removable walls and stationary pegs. I had to fight the children off to play with it. (Actually, it was a slow day and I shared it with only one child. Good fun.

yes, I saw something similar using Legos. it was great fun for all ages. Thanks for the comment.

spark master (author)2014-05-18

Take it from someone who has sat in enough doctors offices enough times, add the appropriate amount of bleach to the water AND change the water Every Time the kids use it. (mty after each use)

I raised 2 kids and the nasties from playing in/with water can be serious. Allowing it to sundry on all sides is also helpful.

That said, this is awesome for kids. Make huge one put over your pool and just use the chlorinated pool water.

great project

Spokehedz (author)spark master2014-05-18

Just use new water every time you use the table, and make sure to dry it out really well. Don't add bleach to the water the kids are playing with, that will most certainly get into their eyes at some point. Good lord, the nannies on this website just make me never want to look at the comments ever again.

spark master (author)Spokehedz2014-05-18

Actually no to the granny crap, use bleach. If it is enough to burn the eyes it is way too much.

My kids and a bunch of other all got the gift of Coxsackie Virus more then once. All from pool water in water that was changed daily, (after each use and then rinsed).

The Doctor told us to put a drop or so (maybe a teaspoon maybe half teaspoon, can't remember), in the water. After we dropped in some bleach, no worries.

Obviously do what you feel you need to do, or do not do what you feel you need to do. Be part of the Great Darwinian game of life.

I do agree there are many silly legalese warnings, but this is not one of them. Great project though. Trust me, I have plenty of big painfully earned scars, so I can understand your point.

csokl (author)2014-05-18

Sweet, great ideas, thx

bradherman (author)2014-05-18

If you use a package of straws glued together inside one of the spouts you can make the water come out looking like a glass tube. Like the fountains at Disneyland.

mailmam71 (author)2014-05-18

For those of you who are worried, get a solar pump, problem solved!

Exocetid (author)2014-05-18

This is a super-clever idea! Quite customizable and expandable as your son gets older.

• legs next year when he gets taller.

• a hose and a variety of cups, possibly a water wheel from an aquarium.

• toy boats and a tray.

--the possibilities are endless!

KevinOKane (author)2013-08-26

I still had trouble getting the inserts through the black pipe, even after soaking in water. Either the temperature was too hot (so pipe didn’t shrink back to original size) or not hot enough. I just couldn’t get the balance right. I’m wondering if it would be ok to hammer the pieces together (using a rubber mallet of course)?

try it. a rubber mallet and a semi-soft surface might be just what you need. Maybe check the inner rim of the pipe sections for big burs and file or carve them off. Good luck.

jordanguy123 (author)2013-05-21

what you talkin bout im maing one for meh

Broom (author)2012-06-01

Needs a video!

theerikjohnson (author)2011-06-23

Thank you all for your kind words. Stand by for Water Table 2.0.

malejko (author)theerikjohnson2012-03-14

It's getting warm out again.. before I go and attempt version 1.0, what's in store for version 2.0? Worth waiting, or just make both!?

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